January 31, 2012

The Mary Onettes return, slightly happier



The Mary Onettes, who specialize in what reminds me of a kind of dreamy Scottish pop - even though they are Swedes - have a new release, Love Forever EP, out on February 25 on the amazing Labrador label. Love’s Taking Strange Ways is first teaser...


January 25, 2012

Quote Of The Week: Last word on Gaga and Madonna



Showing up to an awards show in an egg carries no message other than that you are showing up to an awards show in an egg.

January 23, 2012

Madonna: Flashback 1995



A must-see Madonna interview from 1995. It's eight minutes, all of it great,
but the best part is around 2:00 to 5:00.


Up in '12: Albums to live for



Let's get this out of the way: Madonna has everyone on tenterhooks. Early indications are pretty vexing, but the presence of writer Jean Baptiste (he did a lot of the last Kelis album) and William Orbit are reassuring.

New Dragonette is fixin' to thrill.

We have Emeli Sande, whose album is wall to wall ballads.

Lianne Havas will release her debut. I don't really have high hopes for her or Michael Kiwanuka being anything other than lovely'n'dull.

The ubiquitous hype that is
Lana Del Rey? She may pull it off!

Ladyhawke's
album Anxiety is out in March

Spring is the release period for the debut album by Bright Light Bright Light - it's called How To Make A Heart.

Fibes, O Fibes
release Album on April 11.

Gabrielle
has been in the studio for a long while now and may release her new album.

I am not holding my breath for Maxwell's new record, but he has been working on it for most of 2011 (when it was supposedly done well before that). We do know the title: Summers.

Scissor Sisters.
Don't like the first single, but I expect the album will kick it.

Yasmin
will release her debut album, I hope, which should includes her collaboration with Starsmith. Her label is spinning too slowly on this one.

Sammy Sparro
releases Return To Paradise this spring. I am still obsessed with Black And Gold four years after the fact.

Robbie Williams
is supposed to release a new record this year. He's like a grandpa now, isn't he? I hope it has his usual witty lyrics and no military sounding songs.

This year's REM mantle - an album that will not be as good as the hopes for it - is taken by Sinead O'Connor, who is a madcap mess in the press right now. How to take this former rock goddess seriously?

Rose Elinor Dougall has finished her new LP

Marina & The Diamonds
will release a sophomore record by summertime.

La Roux
- see my post.

Little Boots and Ellie Goulding are also to return in 2012 as well.

Autoheart
- who used to be The Gadsdens - long awaited debut, which may or may not be called Agoraphobia, is out this year. First single is the stunning Control.produced by Danton Supple

English folkie Richard Walters should have a new album out this year. Preview EP Young Trees is excellent.

I PRAY for the return of the superior Knowles sister, Solange. She's been recording for ages.

After a quiet few years, there's been a buzz of activity at Xenomania HQ in Kent. They will blaze trails in 2012:
  • The Gossip return with a Xeno produced album. I heard one track at Xeno HQ in late November and it was blazing. This should be great.
  • Alex Gardner is closing is on completion of his year-late debut album. He's recorded everywhere from Stankonia (Atlanta ) to Kent.
  • Florrie - my favorite of 2011 - returns with several new singles this year (including a few tracks we've heard before that have been "reswizzed" for further grandeur). And the EP cover image is high fashion haute.
  • Finally, will Xeno give us new Girls Aloud tracks? I think it is dead certain (no confirmation though).
Sky Ferriera may release a debut this year. but not the scrapped pop record she intended for 2011.

Whatever, we have an album by the lovely Sia to look forward to.

While The Gossip may have run from Mark Ronson, Rufus Wainwright embraced him for his new album called
From the Scan Nordic track, we have a debut from Beatrice Eli and most likely something new from Robyn. Will Janet Jack son return? I doubt it. Original Sugabbses are retuning. Thank God.

90's female icons are back:
  • Garbage releases a new disc this year. Expect it to be true to form while no one knows what to expect form the new No Doubt album two years in the making and their first in TEN years.
  • Wouldn't it be great if Brandy nailed it on her new disc? Don't hold your breath. And En Vogue have been promising a new album, but seem to have no label.
Clare Maguire is threatening a new blues disc in 2012. Oh God, please no.

Saint Etienne have a new album out this year. Hurrah!

Noughties lovelies Turin Brakes are now a foursome and should have new music in '12.They are on the road now. Not dead!

Keane should have their 4th full-length LP out by summertime. This will be make or break for those boys. Killers are also due out this summer or fall.

Bertine Zetlitz releases a new album - single called Electric Feet - this spring. It's been years.

Alison Moyet has recorded an album with producer Guy Sigsworth - that sounds mega. No date for it yet.

There are rumours - heh heh! - of a new Fleetwood Mac disc, but I find it hard to believe.

Where
are they?
Anneli Drecker and my friend Lucas Mire. Dunno. (1/25 update on Lucas: he is finishing his album now).

Finally, at the end of the year we get a new
Pet Shop Boys album too.

Let us all live that long, please.
Prosper! And follow me on twitter to see my reactions as this music appears in our ears...

January 21, 2012

La Roux: Once in fashion, soon to be rediscovered...



Q Magazine has a small sidebar this month with Elly Jackson talking for the first time about about the forthcoming La Roux album. It seemed to go noticed, but it was the first time I've felt any excitement over the album, the duo's second.

Some details revealed:
  • The album will sound "more open and atmospheric." Among the inspirations is Tears For Fears.

  • The only confirmed song title is Uptight Downtown, inspired by last summer's London riots.

  • It was recorded in a Devon farmhouse, "but there's no, like, farmyard synths or anything."

  • The album features piano by Feist collaborator Chilly Gonzales, a big change from the very authentic Human League/1982 synth-based sound of the debut.
and finally, this quote that got me charged up:
My vocals are a lot softer, a lot smoother. I wanted them to ooze sexiness. I wanted sexiness to just sweep across the record. There's a bit of a Diana Ross thing going on.

I was slow to warm to La Roux (evidence), but ended up loving many of their tracks, most notably Colourless Colour, I'm Not Your Toy (with its sublimely weird video), As If By Magic, Cover My Eyes and the fierce Bulletproof. I'm chuffed for the new one because it appears they've taken it quite seriously. No release date is set, but it's expected in May...

January 18, 2012

The Return of Bertine Zetlitz, Part I



Song sample here

Emeli Sandé, The Bad News and More Bad News

First, Emeli's new single, Next To Me, is catchy as f*ck, no help from a
bland performance video...



You can watch the full clip on Vevo, if the embed fails you.

But the bad news, as Popjustice said last week: Going by the very brief samples below, Emeli's album is wall to wall balladry of the schmaltzy kind. Three singles in and she has exhausted the coolness she launched with last summer via Heaven...



Has an artist we expected to bring a fresh (if, err, totally 90's) sound to the charts, actually revealed herself to be a knockoff of Adele? A classy one, but still a post-Adele record company play? Is she like those fast-buck balladeer chicks from reality TV contests? No doubt Emeli will get the last laugh as she becomes rich rich rich, but this is not the music I'd hoped for. Again, just 10 second clips... but...

UPDATE, 11:30 pm: I have now heard the full Our Version Of Events and it's disastrous. If you count Heaven, Daddy and Next To Me as up-tempos, there is only one more up-tempo (or mid, actually): the elegant Lifetime. The album is rounded out by TEN BALLADS in varying degrees of torpor. Few carry the warmth or honesty of their blueprint, Adele's 21. It's closer in spirit to some of the Syco albums that have spun out from X Factor, which makes sense given that Sandé has writing credits on recent records by Susan Boyle and Leona Lewis.

I'll be lucky if I ever get to the point where I can pluck out the ballads I do like, other than Clown and Hope, the latter a classic-sounding beauty at the end of the album.

January 14, 2012

Mixtape: Lazy bank holiday



Big news! Pet Shops Boys have begun recording their new album n LA with a producer called Andrew Dawson. Intriguing that his background is almost exclusively hip hop/r'n'b, with guys like Drake and Kanye. Just a few weeks now until their new b-sides collection, Format, hits shelves.

My lovely friend Doron talked to Kate Havnevik for Planet Notion about why it took her five years (not six!) to release her new album, You.

Fans of Rose Elinor Dougall - THE COOLEST GIRL ON EARTH - can download a free EP (Distractions) now. This is a stopgap before her new 2012 album, but its really nice. She has one of the finest voices of the last few years- this time set against a Smiths meets Cocteau Twins setting. Lovely for a rainy bank holiday.

Rihanna finally ground herself down to a bewigged nubbin. Her new single You Da One is phoned-in lethargy. As is the video, which features none of her recent retro chic styling. Total stolen-from-Britney white wig fail. Bring on Where Have You Been for a proper single.

Simon LeBon's favorite album of 2011 was... Let England Shake by PJ Harvey? Seriously? Check out his faves of the year. One note: CocknBullKid will pass out when she reads it.

Seventies queens can get the new Diana Ross' 1976 (self-titled) album reissue on Feb 21st. Deets at Second Disc.

Eighties synth dweebs can gorge on the Nik Kershaw reissue of Human Racing. Again, deets at Second Disc. Oh, how I love Wouldn't It Be Good. This set is out on March 6th in the UK.

Burning The Ground, a class act, has the 12" single of Dream Academy's Life In A Northern Town. What a glorious song. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Popjustice has warned that there are not really any danceable tracks on the Emeli Sande album and that it sounds surprisingly "Leona Lewis." Hmmm.

Have you all seen Tubalr? It allows you to listen to a band's or artist's top YouTube videos "without all the clutter YouTube brings." You just type a band's or artist's name into the search box and select only or similar. Cool beans!

I am fine with admitting I think the new Scissor Sisters single, the goodly titled Shady Love, is terrible. The presence of Azealia Banks is a chafe when they ignore Ana. The whole thing screams "chart bid." Change is good as long as you retain something of yourself and the only Scisstery bit I hear is Jake's amusing raps. And for a band so visually arresting, to have your video starring a bunch of kids is makeshift at best.

Ren Harvieu is a new girl singer from the UK. Her first single is Through The Night, but I prefer the uber kd langish Forever In Blue

Jimmy Harry of Rupaul fame co-wrote Madonna's Masterpiece?! I did not see that coming! The other co-writer is Julie Frost, who probaby had to give up royalties to Beyonce for Countdown.

Marina Diamandis tweeted back to me last weekend and I am still - you guessed it - shaking and crying.

Michael Kiwanuka won the BBC's Sound of 2012. After last year's winner, the crass screecher Jessie J, I am quite wary of what the Beeb thinks. Michael is pleasant, but I hear nothing original. Check out his new single Home and see what you think. Borrrring! Am I wrong or right?

Reading Material #1 A gorgeous blog post on Buffalo style, highlighting photos in Arena Hommes a few years back. Here is a second post. Included is a recent photo of the buffalo queen, Neneh Cherry.

Reading Material #2 See what NME has to say about the rocked out Anxiety sampler from Ladyhawke

Reading Material #3 I also loved the piece NME did on worst albums of 2011. Mine was Bjork (from the angle of disappointment). Among their picks were The Drums and Rihanna. I think they left out Coldplay.

Reading Material #4 Pitchfork interviews Charlotte Gainsbourg (in another world she is my wife) about her live LP, Stage Whisper. She is very self critical and "thinky" and has strong integrity... but you just want to say, "Have a big drink before you go onstage!"

Some tunes I am enjoying in this cold period in pop: Snow Patrol's Garden Rules, Goldfrapp's new single, Melancholy Sky, and Lana Del Rey's This Is What Makes Us Girls
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January 12, 2012

Prince outtake: Guitars and drums on the 1!



Update: OF COURSE Prince got this taken down. See if you can find it on youtube.

My favorite Prince song is, unfailingly, Mountains, from 1986's amazing Parade. Above is footage from various cameras during the shooting of the Mountains video. The amazing moments are from minutes 6 to 8, where Prince has some epic chemistry with backing dancer and Under The Cherry Moon sidekick Jerome Benton. It's pure gold and reminds me of Prince's untouchable magic in that era.

I should note the source of this gem came from Felix Howard's blog. Felix, as a child, was the star of Madonna's Open Your Heart video... from the same year, 1986.

January 11, 2012

I wanna be the one in Control

Control, the first single/video from London's Autoheart is out now. The video is notable - to my eyes anyway - for two things: a cute white dog trotting along at 1:30 and lead singer Jody's arms and hairy chest. Or is that really 4 things? Whatever, the song is blazing.

The full album is due in springtime and will feature some epic ballads and a few songs with very fast singing, among other surprises. In the meantime, it's all about control...



Control is out now as a free download via the band's Facebook or Soundcloud. One of the first fantastic songs of 2012.

January 10, 2012

Up in '12: Richard Walters



Richard Walters crisp new EP, Young Trees, is perfect for the dead of winter. This is folkpop, high on melody and really pretty. Of the songs on the record, my favorites are the title track, Regretless and Infinity Street. Music for a snowy day, a glass of wine or a walk alone.

Richard, who seems to tour endlessly, recorded this new music in hotel rooms... both facts make him sound like Rihanna, yes? Though Richard was perhaps not at The Peninsula.



Young Trees, which has a very spare, elegant cover of Echo And The Bunnymen's Bring On The Dancing Horses, is available on iTunes and from Richard's bandcamp. He's done a video for Young Trees, the song, below...

January 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr Bowie



Today is David Bowie's 65th birthday. It appears he is essentially retired now from music, but we can dream...

On his 60th, I did a post of favorite Bowie tracks. Read it if you will.

January 4, 2012

Coming Soon: Llama Del Ray



Thanks wotyougot

Favorites 2011: THE LIST

Cheers 2011...

Catherine A.D. Going Wrong

Ryan Adams Chains Of Love, Invisible Riverside, Lucky Now, The Sun Also Sets
Adele THE WHOLE ALBUM, Someone Like You (Jonathan Gering remix)
Keren Ann My Name Is Trouble
Azari and Ill Reckless
Alpines Cocoon
Autoheart Control, Ordinary Fool
Katy B Power On Me, Broken Record
Beyonce Lay Up Under Me, Schoolin’ Life, The Best Thing I Never Had, I Miss You
Sophie Ellis Bextor Starlight, Synchronised
Birdy Skinny Love, Shelter, People Help The People
Black Room Control
James Blake The Wilhelm Scream, Limit To Your Love
Mary J Blige Need Someone, No Condition, Empty Prayers
Bon Iver Holocene, I Can’t Make You Love Me
Bombay Bicycle Club Shuffle
Bright Light Bright Light Disco Moment, Being Sentimental
Emily Browning Asleep
Claudia Brucken This Is Not America
Melanie C Think About It
Kathryn Calder Turn A Light On
Tony Christie and Roisin Murphy 7 Hills
Cocknbullkid Asthma Attack
Coldplay Princess Of China
Josie Cotton See The New Hong Kong (Loverush UK Club Mix)
Lana Del Rey Video Games, Blue Jeans, Off To The Races
Dirty Vegas Never Enough
Beth Ditto THE WHOLE EP
Thomas Dolby Oceana
Drake Take Care (with Rihanna)
D:Ream All Things To All Men
The Drums Money
Echoes Love Won’t Save You Now, Footprints
Kathleen Edwards Change The Sheets
Beatrice Eli The Conqueror
Erasure What Will I Say When You’re Gone, Then I Go Twisting
Estelle Break My Heart
Fantasia Collard Greens & Cornbread
The Feeling Leave Me Out of It (with Sophie Ellis Bextor)
Feist A Commotion, Caught A Long Wind
Sky Ferreira 99 Tears
Bryan Ferry Me Oh My, Song To The Siren
Florence + The Machine Shake It Out, Only If For A Night, No Light No Light, All This And Heaven, Spectrum
Florrie THE WHOLE EP
Foster The People Pumped Up Kicks, Call It What You Want, I Would Do Anything For you, Warrant, Broken Jaw, Waste
Frankmusik Do It In The AM, Ludicrous, Warrior
Friendly Fires THE WHOLE ALBUM
Noel Gallagher Everybody’s On The Run
Diego Garcia All Eyes On You
Glee Cast For Good
Goldfrapp Yellow Halo
Wynter Gordon Still Getting Younger
Gotye Save Me, State Of The Art, Giving Me A Chance, Someone That I Used To Know Graffiti6 Blue Ridge Mountains, Free
Cee Lo Green
Anyway
Darren Hayes Talk Talk Talk
, Stupid Mistake, Bloodstained Heart, Nearly Love, Hurt, Angel, Black Out The Sun (Extended Mix)
Kate Havnevik
Mouth 2 Mouth, Happy Sad
Holy Ghost! Jam For Jerry
Benjamin Francis Leftwich Don’t Go Slow

Jessica 6 White Horse
, See The Light, Prisoner of Love
JLS Eyes Wide Shut
Kimbra Cameo Lover
Lady Gaga The Edge Of Glory, Marry The Night, Scheisse, Electric Chapel, Bad Kids, Heavy Metal Lover
Little Boots Shake
Holestar The Queen Of Fucking Everything
M83 Midnight City
Madonna Masterpiece
Clare Maguire The Last Dance, I Surrender, Burn, Happiest Pretenders, Shield And Sword
Amanda Mair Doubt, House
Majiker The Struggle
Mariana and The Diamonds Radioactive
Laura Marling Sophia, I Was Just A Card, The Beast
Medina Gutter
James Morrison Up
The Mummers Call Me A Rainbow
Stevie Nicks Annabel Lee, Italian Summer, Moonlight (A Vampire’s Dream), New Orleans, Secret Love
Sarah Nixey The Burial Of Love, Frost At Midnight
Nerina Pallot All Bets Are Off, Grace, This Will Be Our Year, Put Your Hands Up, Will You Still Love Me, History Boys
Gretchen Parlato Holding Back The Years, Lost And Found
Frank Ocean Nature Feels, Novacane, Strawberry Swing
Oh Land Perfection, Speak Out Now
The Original 7even If I Was Yo Man
Penguin Prison THE WHOLE ALBUM
Rihanna We Found Love, Do Yo Thang, Where Have You Been
Nicola Roberts Porcelain Heart, Say It Out Loud, Everybody Has To Learn Sometime
Robyn Call Your Girlfriend Sultan and Ned Shepard Remix)
Kelly Rowland with Alex Guadino What A Feeling
Emeli Sande Heaven, Daddy
Scritti Poliiti A Day Late And A Dollar Short
Duncan Sheik The Ghost In You
Lucie Silvas Roots
Sneaky Sound System Big, I’m Not leaving
Snow Patrol This Isn’t Everything You Are, Garden Rules
Sound Of Arrows Conquest, There Is Still Hope, Wonder
Britney Spears Hold It Against Me
Sunday Girl Love U More
Take That Don’t Say Goodbye
Those Dancing Days Can’t Find Entrance
Tracey Thorn Night Time
Tyson Out of My Mind
Judie Tzuke Joy, Hurt In Your Heart, One Tree Less, Solid Shoulders (with The Goodes)
Uh Huh Her Another Case
Paul Weller Starlight
Wild Beasts Albatross
, Loop The Loop, Invisible, Reach A Bit Further
Amy Winehouse
Half Time
Patrick Wolf The City, Together, House, Slow Motion, Bermondsey Street
Wolf Gang Dancing With The Devil, The King And All Of His Men, Suego Faults, Where Are You Now
Jamie Woon Shoulda, Street, Night Air
Yasmin Finish Line, On My Own
Will Young THE WHOLE ALBUM, Come On (Beatless Version)
Young Galaxy B.S.E.

January 2, 2012

Best 2011: Top Albums



2011 was a schizo year for pop music. There were some points when it was a feast of beats and beauty. But other periods, like summer, were just so depressingly lifeless. As is often the case, half the records on this list are debut albums - in some cases ones I'd been waiting for, while others were fantastic bolts out of the blue. I should note that many of my reviews below were first published in 2011 in the American (print) magazine Instinct.

Album Of The Year is a TIE



Friendly Fires Pala
Fires pulled off that elusive trick: creating a sophomore album far superior to their debut. In this case, they were aided by genius producer Paul Epworth, who knows his way around spine tingling Moments. Tracks like Blue Cassette and Live Those Days Tonight were steeped in a sort of widescreen beauty... perhaps even sentimentality. Pala is a meta album: music about how music has changed us. The slinky Hurting was my single of the year, while the album cover is also a favorite. I actually bought this on vinyl, it was so beautiful.

Standout tracks: All were great, but I'll choose Hurting as my favorite, followed by Live Those Days Tonight, True Love, Show Me Love, Blue Cassette and Pull Me Back To Earth



Will Young Echoes
That lush lipped popstrel Will Young's new album might never be released in the US does not dampen my affection. Ten years into his career (like some grand ol dame of pop!), he remains a class act. Echoes, however, is a game changer of the Madonna meets William Orbit model. In this case, the wunderkind collaborator is another British electro-icon, Richard X. The result is still very much mid-tempo – not quite disco - but the "sonics" are lush and current, with Young’s soaring voice climbing up and down strong melodies. Jealousy is the most elegant hit single this year.

Standout tracks: Jealousy, Come On, Runaway, Good Times, I Just Want A Lover, Losing Myself, and Happy Now

...and more fantastic albums, in no order:



Adele 21
It's hard to talk about this album briefly, so read my track by track review. I appreciate Adele bringing the pop charts back to a focus on songwriting and vocals after a few years of spectacle. People were hungry for something honest and emotional: music minus artifice. 21 was the album I played most consistently and obsessively in the early months of 2011.

Standout tracks: Just buy it if you don't already have it.



Darren Hayes Secret Codes and Battleships
L'Hayes has come a long way from riffing on cherry cola in his Savage Gardens days. Four years in the making, Secret Codes shimmies and sways deep into the dark side of love. Check this bon mot: “I can make you pray to God and wish we never met.” That those words are pulled from the soaring up-tempo Hurt is testimony to Hayes’ strength. He leavens the gravity of the lyrics with the album’s dominant aural motif, gorgeous bursts of strings. They lift tracks like Nearly Love, and Bloodstained Heart and provide a lush coda to recent hit Talk Talk Talk. Fifteen years into his career, Hayes’s unerring sense of melody remains a trademark. Secret Codes is a concise, emotional Pop Moment. For more on the making of this album, see my interview with Darren.

Standout tracks: Talk Talk Talk, Bloodstained Heart, Hurt, Nearly Love, Stupid Mistake, God Walking Into A Room



Penguin Prison Penguin Prison
Having built an online following over the last few years, Penguin Prison’s Chris Glover finally released his debut and it’s mad brilliant. Coming from the same New York milieu as Holy Ghost!, Glover rubs his inner Prince - he would die 4 u on Multi Millionaire - against an intuitive pop elegance to create gems like the smart Golden Train and the poptastic The Worse It Gets. But the stunner here is Don’t F*ck With My Money – a sentiment we all shared in 2011, especially when it shimmers like these tunes.

Standout tracks: The whole thing is like a Greatest Hits album



The Sound of Arrows Voyage
In the game of music review referencing, Sweden's The Sound of Arrows might be "Pet Shop Boys seated with Vangelis and a children’s choir in a cathedral pew." Whether that sounds epic or dire is down to you, but there's no doubt that Voyage is a strong debut. It only takes a few plays to forget those other artists. The 8-minute There Is Still Hope epitomizes synthpop grandeur, while tracks like Conquest and Wonders are concise, melodic and - on some sexy planet with magenta skies - radio hits.

Standout Tracks: Wonders, Ruins Of Rome, Into The Clouds, Conquest, There Is Still Hope



Wolf Gang Suego Faults
A fine debut. Preceded by three solid singles, including the gorge Lions In Cages, the album revealed a cache of unexpected surprises, including the mid-tempo Where Are You Now and an Elton John-meets-Queen progrock ballad called Planets. The title track, about an elusive utopia, is colossal. The band (primarily Max McElligot working with producer Dave Fridmann) took their time making the record and you can hear that in the richly detailed results. The Maurice Sendak-esque album cover is equally amazing.

Standout tracks: Lions In Cages, The Kings And All Of His Mean, Suego Faults, Where Are You Now



Clare Maguire Light After dark
2012 was not kind to Clare Maguire, whose label pushed her as a monolithic superstar (Last Dance) and then promptly stopped promoting her when she didn't turn out massive hits on her first two singles. Unfair, because the record is a feast of pop anthems (if a bit full on at times). I Surrender is the most beautiful of these songs, but iTunes bonus track Burn - produced by Starsmith - also shines.

Standout tracks: I Surrender, The Happiest Pretenders,The Sword And The Shield, Last Dance, Freedom and Burn



Patrick Wolf Lupercalia
Happy is not a word one would associate with Patrick Wolf in recent years, but Lupercalia is the soundtrack to a love affair that lasts. Rarely has his music been so euphoric. The album came with superb artwork as well.


Standout tracks: Together, House, The Future, Bermondsey Street, Slow Motion, The Falcons



Florence + The Machine Ceremonials
Church bells announce the return of Florence Welch on her sophomore album. The track, Only If For The Night, is all things we desire from Flo: ghosts, chants, and booming drums. The surging Spectrum needs to be a single in 2012, purely for its wicked whip sounds, while All This & Heaven Too is a silvery linguistic epic. What keeps Ceremonials from perfection is its over-reliance on LOUD. There are no proper ballads - most songs hammer their way home - but it’s a lush journey all the same.

Standout tracks: Shake It Out, Only If For The Night, All This & Heaven Too, Breaking Down, Spectrum, and No Light No Light



Florrie Experiments
Florrie tweeted to me last summer, “If the cheeks don’t shake, the song is dropped.” Indeed. Her previous gems only hinted at the layers that she'd reveal on this self-released summer EP. Collaborating with Xenomania and Fred Falke, Florrie delivers a perfect discopop collection. If you want to taste one track, try I Took A Little Something, in which the shimmer of the arrangement belies the melancholy lyric. Check Florrie’s website for a collection of free pop gems, which will likely disappear as she prepares to launch round two in 2012.

Standout tracks: I Took A Little Something, Experimenting With Rugs, Begging Me, What You Doing This For?



Wild Beasts Smother
Hayden Thorpe's voice is an acquired taste - let's get that out there. But on Smother he finally found the perfect setting for his operatic emoting. This is one of the slower albums of the year and the better for it. For me, it is rainy day music for popping a Xanax and drinking wine (is that dangerous?). Enough said.

Standout tracks: Albatross, Loop The Loop, Invisible, Plaything, Reach A Bit Further



Foster The People Torches
FTP are of rare provenance on this blog: they're Americans! Their debut is reverential LA pop at its most effervescent... it totally swings. I Would Do Anything For You is the best here - an ice cream of an anthem that manages to channel sunny Fleetwood Mac, MGMT and Josh Rouse (in his happy phase) in one harmonic ooh lala convergence. The 5+minute Warrant is a massive house-rattler built on a piano and chanted chorus. On the flipside, Waste offers a sweet line hidden inside a verse: "I'll just wait and here and listen to you when you speak... or scream." Torches was and is my California summer dream.

Standout tracks:
I Would Do Anything For You, Call It What You Want, Broken Jaw, Warrant, Pumped Up Kicks and Waste



Jamie Woon Mirrorwriting
One of the BBC's Sound of 2011, it's hard not to hold Woon in contrast to moody boy-hipster James Blake. Woon is better. He massages dubstep to beautiful melodies and soul vocals. Standouts include Night Air and the emotional Spiral, vocally reminiscent of long lost master Terence Trent D'Arby. The percolating loop on Shoulda counters the regret of its lyric ("I walked when I shoulda run...") with a measure of hope - it's my favorite song. Street is emblematic of this album's mix of steely elegance (those synth stabs on the chorus!) and the choirboy lushness of Woon's voice gliding over these night beats.

Standout tracks: Shoulda, Night Air, Spiral, Street

Other great 2010 albums:
Nerina Pallots' best album, Year Of The Wolf
Laura Marling's A Creature I Don't Know
Gotye Making Mirrors
Ryan Adams Ashes And Fire
Jessica 6's debut, See The Light

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| Read my Top Songs of 2011 | See 2010's album faves